Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
Moses – To Everything There is a Time
Teacher’s Notes: Last week we left Moses in Midian with his new family. We saw him stand up for what he knew was right – a great start for a soon-to-be great leader. But before Moses steps into that leadership role, he still has a few more lessons to learn. Next week, we’ll be watching Moses learn some much needed lessons about himself. But this week’s lesson will focus on something Moses and the Israelites will learn about God… that He does what He does in His own good time. And sometimes that process may seem painfully slow.
Have you ever prayed for something really important, and had God answer your prayer right away? (Allow the students to share their answers to prayer, or offer some of your own, if they can’t think of any.) Sometimes God does answer our prayers, with just what we asked for, and soon after we prayed.
But God doesn’t always work that way. Have you prayed for something very important, and it seems like maybe God didn’t hear your prayer, because He hasn’t answered it? (Again, allow the students to share any examples they might have, or share some of your own.) How long ago did you pray for that request? Are you still praying about it, or did you stop because God didn’t answer when you thought He should?
In our lesson today, we’re going to find out that just because we don’t see an answer to prayer right away doesn’t mean that God didn’t hear us, or that He isn’t going to answer. It may just mean it’s not the right time yet.
Those of us who have computers at home or at school have gotten used to being able to get answers to some pretty tough questions right away, just by typing them into a computer. But God isn’t a computer…He’s God. And He knows what is best for all of us, and when is best. Sometimes it seems like He takes forever to answer our prayers. But our lesson today will remind us that God works in His own timing. And sometimes that timing may seem awfully slow. But that doesn’t mean that God is not at work…
Let’s take a look at our memory verse, and then check in on Moses and the Israelites to find out if God is answering their prayers.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You that You hold all the seasons and time in Your mighty hands. Help us to get a better understanding, through this lesson, Lord, of why You sometimes don’t seem to answer our prayers right away. Help us to learn patience and trust in You, and in Your timing. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: (Moses – To Everything There is a Time)
Last week, we left Moses in Midian. He had run away from Egypt, after killing an Egyptian to defend one of the Hebrews – his people. When Moses got to Midian, he met a family of shepherds, and married one of the daughters. And Exodus 2:21 tells us that Moses was content to stay there, in Midian, with his new family.
But there was another group of people who were not content with the way things were going. Let’s look at today’s passage of Scripture to find out who was praying, and what God was doing about it.
(Suggested Bible Reading): Exodus 2:23 – 3:1 (you may read the entire passage now, or just refer back to it when suggested in the lesson)
23And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
Do you remember back to our first lesson on Moses, a few weeks ago, when we looked at how the Hebrew people (or Israelites) had come down to Egypt during a famine? They left the Promised Land (Canaan) to find food. Then, when the famine ended, they stayed in Egypt and grew into a strong nation. So the Egyptians had made slaves of them, to keep them from taking over their land.
The first verses of our passage begins by mentioning a “process of time,” in which another Pharaoh dies, and the Israelites are praying, asking God to rescue them from their bondage. This “process of time” was not just a few years. Exodus 12:41 tells us that the Israelites had been in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years! Part of that time was while Joseph was still alive. And during that time, the Israelites lived in Egypt without persecution. But once Joseph and the Pharaohs who remembered him died, then the persecution had begun. This persecution did not go unnoticed by God. After all, these were His chosen people. Listen to what the next verse says: “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.” (Exodus 2:24-25) God had promised Abraham that the land where he lived, Canaan, would be a home for his children, for generations to come. And yet, there they were, stuck in Egypt as slaves.
So God brought a man into the Hebrew race to rescue them from slavery. His name, as you might guess, was Moses. As we’ve learned in the last few weeks, Moses was a Hebrew, but brought up with all the power and privilege of the Egyptians. And when, at the age of forty, he chose to identify himself with his Hebrew brothers, it may have seemed to many like he was God’s choice…and this was the time of their salvation. But then things seemed to go terribly wrong, as Moses had to run away.
Didn’t we just read that God heard the prayers and cries of the Israelite people? Well, if He did, doesn’t it seem like He should be doing something to help? Let’s read our last verse from this passage, to see what God was doing with Moses, in response to the Israelites’ prayers: “Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.” (Exodus 3:1) Does this verse tell us that Moses was busy working out so he would be big and strong to defeat the Egyptians? Does it say he was busy spending time in prayer and meditaion so he would know just what God was doing?
What does this verse say Moses was doing? He was sitting in the desert with a bunch of sheep! And not just for a week or two. Not for a month or two. Not even for a year or two. Acts 7:30 tells us that Moses stayed in the desert with those sheep for forty years! Now, if you’re waiting on an answer to prayer…forty years is a really long time! Most of you aren’t even close to old enough to have been praying that long for anything. But perhaps you know of someone in your family who is not saved. And perhaps your parents have been praying for their salvation for nearly that long. Do you think it’s hard to keep from getting discouraged and giving up on ever getting an answer from God when we have to wait for such a long time?
There are some other men in the Bible who also prayed, and had to wait awhile for God’s answer. One of them was the prophet, Daniel. Daniel chapter 10 tells us that Daniel had been praying to God for understanding of a vision that he had seen. He mourned and fasted, waiting for God to answer him. But no answer came. It wasn’t until three full weeks later that an angel reached Daniel with an answer from God. All that time that Daniel was waiting, God wasn’t ’ignoring his prayer. In fact, in this case, the angel had been sent to Daniel right away. But Satan and his demons kept God’s messenger from reaching Daniel until God, in His perfect timing, had the angel, Michael, come to help His messenger get through to Daniel. The Bible doesn’t tell us why God allowed Daniel to wait so long. Daniel just had to trust that God’s timing was best.
Then, there was a priest in the New Testament named Zacharias, who had prayed to God and asked for a child. And it must have seemed like God didn’t hear him, or didn’t answer, because Luke 1:7 says this: “And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.” But Zacharias was to learn that a baby just hadn’t been in God’s timing, yet. Verse 13 tells us that God had, in fact, heard Zacharias’ prayer, and was going to answer it. It just happened that God’s timing for His perfect plan came many, many years after Zacharias had hoped. In fact, we learn that Zacharias had completely given up hope on having that prayer answered, as he doubted the angel who brought him the good news. But when God was good and ready, when the season was right to bring that special baby, John the Baptist, into the world, then and only then did God answer the prayer that Zacharias had prayed so long ago.
Now…back to our hero, Moses. It’s time to do a little brain-stormin. Let’s try to think about why God might have wanted to keep Moses in the desert, watching his father-in-law’s sheep for forty years, while the rest of the Israelites (including his parents, and brother, and sister) are still back, slaving away, in Egypt. The Bible doesn’t come right out and tell us God’s reasons. But can you think of any possible reasons God would keep him out there, rather than having him go right in and rescue the Israelites?
(Allow the students to share any ideas they may have. Then you might share these, if they have not already been suggested. Be sure to stress to your students that God’s ways are higher than ours, and we don’t always know or understand His reasons for doing things. So this exercise is purely speculation.)
Perhaps the Israelite people were not quite ready to be rescued in God’s way, yet. While it’s true that they were being badly mistreated, it could be they wanted God to make things better for them right there in Egypt. These Israelites had lived their whole lives there, and only knew about the Promised Land from stories passed down from their ancestors. Leaving the only place they ever knew as home would be a difficult thing. But if the situation got bad enough, perhaps then it would be easier to leave Egypt behind. And that was the rescue God had in mind for them.
Another possibility is that Moses had a few things to learn before he would be ready to rescue his people. What might he learn in the desert, leading sheep? (Again, allow the students to suggest possible answers, first.)
Moses was probably learning a lot about the desert, itself…where the good spots were to rest the flock, where there might be water, what kind of animals might be there. All of this information could be very useful in the future; because as Moses leads the Israelites toward the Promised Land, they will be traveling through this very desert; stopping at some of the same places where he had spent time as a shepherd.
And what about his role as a shepherd? Do you think that could be useful for the leader of a nation? There are many times in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, where we are referred to as sheep. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray…” And in John 10:11, Jesus calls Himself “the good shepherd” who gives His life for His sheep. If any of you were with us a couple of months ago, you may remember that we talked a little about sheep, and how we are like them. They always look for a leader to follow. If their leader for some reason isn’t out in front of them, doing the leading, they will just look for someone else to follow. Sheep also need a shepherd who is willing and able to provide for their needs, such as food and safety. When Moses later leads the Israelites through the wilderness, some of this knowledge of shepherding will be put to good use. Of course, Exodus 12:37 tells us that by the time the Israelites left Egypt, there were “about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.” And that number did not include the women. So that was a really big group of people! Far bigger than any flock of sheep Moses was given to tend. So Moses’ time spent shepherding a flock of sheep, in God’s wisdom, is not wasted time. It worked perfectly into His plan and His timing..
We have the advantage, today, of being able to look back in time, and see how God did, indeed, have a plan in motion to bring His people out of Egypt, back to the Promised Land. It was a plan that He would bring about in His way, and in His time. It may have looked to the Israelites, at that time, like God didn’t hear their prayers. But that wasn’t true, at all. It just wasn’t time, yet. And “there is a time to every purpose under Heaven.” In next week’s lesson, we’ll get to see God’s plan begin to unfold. But for this week, we’ll just have to wait, with the Israelites, while Moses lives a contented life as a shepherd in Midian…not knowing that God is about to end the wait, and turn his life, and the lives of all the people in Egypt upside-down.
Closing Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for including the story of Moses and the Israelites in Your Holy Word. And thank You for teaching us that You do answer prayer, even though sometimes the answer may be delayed for a long time. Help us not to lose heart as we wait for You to answer. And help us to remember to thank You when the answer does come…even if it isn’t exactly when and what we had hoped for. You know best, Lord. So we’ll trust you to do just that, when the time is right. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity:
God answers prayer in many different ways. If you’ve prayed about some special need on your heart, here are some ways He might answer:
This week, I’d like you to think about whether there’s anything you’ve prayed about, and gotten discouraged because it seems like God didn’t answer you. Then consider the possibility that the answer is on its way…but it just isn’t the right time, yet. If this has happened to you, why not take a moment and thank God for doing things in His own way and time. And begin trusting that if what you’ve asked Him for is best for you, that the answer is, perhaps even now, on the way!
God’s timing’s always perfect;
Not too soon, or too late.
But it can be frustrating
When His answer is, “wait.”
It’s then we must remember
That God is on the throne;
And His ways are much greater
And higher than our own.
So we must trust His timing,
And in this promise rest –
That He is God Almighty,
So His timing is best!
Lisa DeVinney, March 29, 2015